Today I got sent a link to some photos taken of Miss Fab's cheerleading team at their competition last weekend, and as I clicked and saved them, I felt inspired.
I was inspired by the smiles, inspired by the teamwork, inspired by the sheer athleticism of these girls.
Miss Fab has been doing Cheer for nearly two years - and I wasn't always a fan.
The pageant-y makeup, the skimpy outfits, the glitter and bows - it all felt alien to me: un-Kiwi and overly-American.
There are plenty of misconceptions out there in the world about it as well. Many people are under the impression that it's like the Cheer teams on things like High School Musical and Glee: all pompoms and high ponies and backstabbing. But nothing could be further from the truth.
There's not a pompom in sight, for one thing. The make-up, bows and glitter only make an appearance on competition days, just as they do in rhythmic gymnastics and ice skating. The skimpy outfits, well, there are degrees of them. Our team's outfit is very tasteful, I reckon. I have no issues with it.
But beyond all the outward trappings that might make the average Kiwi recoil and wonder just what the attraction is, Cheerleading is a competitive team sport combining the best of dance and gymnastics. Our Team New Zealand has won Gold twice at Worlds. The things those senior cheerleaders can do literally take your breath away.
Here's why I've come to love AND admire Cheerleading as an incredible sport.
1. It's All About Teamwork.The girls work and work to become part of a coordinated team. Like dancers, they work on their timing for each routine, spending hours making sure they are all in sync. As in any good team, every person does their part, and every part is valuable and essential. The "flyers" have the glamour job - they go UP. But any flyer is only as good as her base team. Without the bases to lift them, hold them, catch them, the flyers wouldn't go anywhere.
All this teamwork develops incredible trust between the girls. The flyers have to trust their bases to hold them, catch them and never to drop them.
The bases have to be strong, coordinated and dependable. They learn that being underneath, supporting, is just as important as being on top, flying.
2. It develops amazing fitness and flexibilityThese girls train HARD. Six hours a week in training, they do conditioning and build their fitness and flexibility. They learn to do incredible things with their bodies, and gain amazing body confidence. From planking, push-ups and v-snaps to rival any hard core gym enthusiast, to back handsprings, front walkovers, jumps and splits, these girls are amazingly BENDY. And super strong. My Ab Fab is 11 years old and she is developing ABS.
One thing I've noticed is that unlike some girls' sports/activities like gymnastics and ballet (where you really need to be petite), it doesn't matter what size or shape you are - there are girls of all sizes participating and enjoying it. Which is awesome, cos my girl is tall and strapping (and gorgeously so - I would never want her to feel like her height and strength are something to wish away. With cheerleading, she embraces the way she is made and revels in it).
3. It is FUN
Bottom line this is a super-fun sport. It's high energy, it's action-packed, it's challenging and there is NO SITTING AROUND. You make friends with girls you'd otherwise never meet - older girls, younger girls, bigger girls, smaller girls. You learn to do things with your body that make people go "wow" ... and you get to dress up in make-up glitter and bows, put on your most winning cheesey smile and go out on stage with your team. Competition days are the icing on the cake and the pay-off for all that hard work and training (especially when you win a medal). Competition days are FUN. And you get to travel sometimes too - Wellington, Australia, maybe even Hawaii...
I mean, don't those faces just say it all?
Yep, I am totally sold on cheerleading. My daughter absolutely loves it. She practises like mad when she's at home, and two years on she's only MORE into it than she was when she began.
And it helps that we have a group of mums in our area who carpool and share makeup and hair-curling duties. We are our own team, too. Which spreads the load and makes it more do-able.
I can't see us quitting Cheer any time soon.
What did you think about Cheerleading before reading this? Did you think it was all pompoms and HSM drama?
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